Stacey Lau wants to see the nation’s food systems become more sustainable, ethical and affordable. And after years of studying food science and technology at Cal State LA—and conducting research—she is prepared to help make it happen.
“My thought is that if you take enough time to learn anything, I think you could do it,” Lau said.
Lau graduated in May from Cal State LA’s Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology and summa cum laude honors. She finished with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
“Stacey Lau [was] an exceptional student who has achieved tremendously during her B.S. program at Cal State LA in academic and extracurricular activities, including community service,” said Sunil Mangalassary, associate professor of food science and technology.
As an undergraduate student, the 22-year-old Pasadena native flourished in her studies, earning several scholarships, a USDA fellowship last year, and a top spot in a thesis competition at the Southern California Institute of Food Technologists for her work, “Comparison of selected household washing methods in reducing Listeria innocua in iceberg lettuce.”
Lau chose Cal State LA because she wanted to contribute to the local community. Although women in the U.S. make up only a third of those employed in STEM occupations, Lau was not deterred when selecting a STEM major; she saw opportunities.
“There’s so much room to grow, like between chemistry, biology, engineering, but also even getting into law. That’s an option. And then even marketing,” she said.
Lau was first drawn to the field of food science and technology because of her passion for food and baking.
She and her mother would regularly read the labels on their cooking boxes, analyzing the ingredients, and questioning what they would be putting into their bodies. As a kid the practice was just family bonding, but it inspired Lau to “learn about it for four years and figure it out [for] myself.”
“Pancakes were one of the first foods I learned how to make and last semester I got to design an experiment around them for food chemistry,” she said. “My lab partner and I looked at how the pH of different rising agents used affect the height and browning of pancakes.”
At Cal State LA, Lau found opportunities to participate in research, beginning with faculty member Jing Zhao’s study to use rice protein as a substitute in gluten-free pasta.
“It was so hard.” she said. “That was my first time. I was crying all the time, but she was so gentle and at the end she was telling me, ‘Oh, you’re actually good at this.’ I thought I would never do research again, but she really encouraged me.”
Outside of the classroom, Lau found a sense of community on campus with the help of Cal State LA’s many student organizations and the Honors College. Lau volunteered at a local food bank, a practice she started with her childhood church.
She also found friends in her Bible study group on campus.
“I feel like everything, from the chem classes to all the events that ASI and CSI put on, I felt like I had been able to build that sense of community here. I think that more than anything has really helped me in my studies. It’s like a stress reliever, one less thing to worry about,” said Lau.
Now that she’s graduated, Lau knows that she’s accomplished bigger dreams than her younger self ever imagined. She is set on attending grad school, earning a PhD, and changing our food systems.
“I think she’d be proud,” Lau answered when asked what her younger self would think of her current life. “I’d say that God’s got it taken care of.”
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.